After years of unanswered complaints and unkept promises by management, residents of the Ruscombe Gardens apartment complex are hoping they may get some regular attention and immediate relief.
Just hours after The Brew published an article chronicling what they say are long-standing serious maintenance issues at the northwest Baltimore property, state Delegate Sandy Rosenberg was calling for action.
Declaring the conditions reported at Ruscombe Gardens “deplorable,” Rosenberg emailed Janet Abrahams, executive director of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, and Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy, requesting their agencies investigate and take action.
“Immediate steps must be taken to address these concerns,” wrote Rosenberg, whose 41st District includes Ruscombe Gardens at 4800 Yellowwood Avenue.
Sharon Green Middleton, whose 6th councilmanic district includes the property, also raised concerns.
“I totally agree that this situation must be handled ASAP,” Middleton wrote Thursday in an email that included Abrams, Kennedy and other officials, including several in Mayor Brandon Scott’s office.
She said her office “has not received complaints in many many years about this property,” but added “this is not the way we want to [hear] about ‘older adult’ public housing problems.”
“Please prepare to send us a plan of action on how this issue is going to be resolved,” Middleton also advised.
The federally subsidized 150-unit complex provides low-income housing to elderly and disabled people.
According to Rosenberg, the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will now be carrying out an inspection of the property.
HABC: We’re not responsible
Speaking with The Brew, Rosenberg said after reading about the problems at Ruscombe Gardens, he knew he needed to take action.
“This is in my district. It’s in my neighborhood. And my first job out of law school was working for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, so I’m sensitive to these kinds of issues,” he said.
“No one in the city and in the state should be living in conditions that violate the housing code.”
Asked if HABC bears any responsibility for Ruscombe Gardens, a spokeswoman said it does not.
“We have no units at this property,” senior vice president for communications Ingrid Antonio said, in an email.
Queried about whether there are tenants with Section 8 housing vouchers, she again demurred.
“We don’t have vouchers at that address,” Antonio said. “The site may have subsidy from HUD – we wouldn’t know that.”
The property is owned by the Portland, Maine-based Chateau Foghorn Limited Partnership, and run through its management company, Preservation Management.
Preservation Management operates subsidized housing facilities in 17 states, including three other apartment complexes in Maryland.
Under their management Ruscombe Gardens has routinely passed HUD examinations, with their most recent published inspection in December 2019.
The property received a score of 97b, a passing score, though the “b” designation signals that one or more “non-life-threatening health and safety deficiencies” were observed.
The management company told The Brew it “has not seen any complaints from Ruscombe Gardens for some time.”
Code Enforcement Promised
The Baltimore housing department, asked earlier about Ruscombe Gardens, said there were no open service requests.
There have been three notices issued to Ruscombe Gardens since the beginning of 2019, all of which have been abated, a spokeswoman told The Brew.
Following the alerts from Rosenberg and Middleton, agency officials agreed to take action.
“I have asked code enforcement to visit the building,” Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy wrote to Rosenberg. “We will look for any code violations in the common areas of the building.”
She added. however, that “in order to address any items in individual units, residents need to request an inspection through 311, or allow us into the unit while we are onsite.”
“We will look for any code violations in the common areas of the building” – Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy.
The list of concerns at Ruscombe Gardens is large. With years of unanswered complaints – covering everything from repair issues to flooding to poor sanitation – residents have long felt like their complaints fell on deaf ears.
“You can’t go into the office and address nothing with them,” said resident Patricia Walker. “They don’t wanna address problems. They’ll tell you anything to get you out.”
Speaking with The Brew, Rosenberg has a message for frustrated Ruscombe Gardens residents.
“It’s unfortunate that you’ve had to live under these conditions,” he said.
“If there are any issues in the future, you should be in touch with the housing department directly and let them know of the problems. But let us know as your elected officials as well.”